Police use of force: A transactional approach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


Drawing on Tedeschi and Felson's (1994) theory of coercive actions for conceptual guidance as well as principles underlying the notion of a force continuum structure (i.e., proportionality and incrementalism), this research examines 3,544 police-suspect encounters from an observational study of the police in an attempt to better understand the transactional process of the police-suspect encounter. Results indicate, within the context of a force continuum structure, that officers escalated the level of force in about one of five encounters involving nonresistant suspects, and de-escalated the level of force in three of four encounters involving resistant suspects. A series of logistic and multinomial regression models show that a number of factors differentially affect the manner in which officers apply force. The results suggest that before one can begin to judge the appropriateness of police force, one should measure and consider the extent to which force is applied proportionately and incrementally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-138
Number of pages32
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Coercion
  • Police
  • Transactional approach
  • Use of force

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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